This comes as the country passes a grim milestone: At least 50,000 people have died of coronavirus in the United States, according to tallies collected by Johns Hopkins University.
Businesses and customers in states starting to reopen are now navigating new territory: How many will do business, even if allowed?
Restaurants can reopen there Monday, also with distancing restrictions. Ian Winslade, owner of a restaurant in Atlanta, said his establishment will stay closed for now.
“I don’t understand whether or not the public will have confidence to meet with us,” he told CNN Friday
In Texas, the state Friday started a “retail-to-go” approach, allowing retail stores to sell to customers through curbside and delivery.
The Good Records store reopened Friday in Dallas — but only with its owner, Chris Penn, working. He felt comfortable enough serving customers himself, but not yet wanting to expose his employees.
“We’re going to give it our shot. … Hopefully we can make it out the other side,” Penn said Friday.
Other restrictions lifting Friday:
• Alaska: Most areas will allow personal services, like hair salons, and restaurants to reopen Friday, but with restrictions. Restaurants will have to keep distances between tables, and can’t exceed 25% of their normal capacity.
• Oklahoma: Personal care businesses can reopen for appointments Friday. Restaurants, dining rooms, movie theaters, sporting venues and gyms will reopen the following week if they maintain “strict social distancing and sanitation protocols.”
In Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms opposes the Georgia governor’s decision to ease restrictions. She said she hopes many people still will stay home, but suspects some won’t.
“They will go into hair salons and go and get manicures and pedicures as if it is business as usual, and then in a couple of weeks, we will see our numbers continue to rise is in this state,” Bottoms told CNN Friday.
Coronavirus was spreading earlier than thought, research and deaths show
The developments suggest many more people have been infected than official tallies show, and that the fatality rate from the virus may be lower than it seemed, public health experts say.
Dr. Sara Cody, the county’s public health director, said the victims likely would have been exposed to the virus two to three weeks prior to their deaths. Since none of them had a recent travel history, she said they likely were exposed in that community.
But at the time, officials had reassured the public the risk of catching the virus was low. The three victims had not gotten tested for the virus because testing was very limited, the county said, restricted mainly to people with a related travel history.
This week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked coroners across the state to review cases dating back to December to determine whether they were also coronavirus related.
The model suggests that by March 1, the median number of infected people in major US cities such as New York, San Francisco and Seattle had reached 28,000.
Even if the country where the virus originated, China, reduced transmission by February, most other countries likely would have had sustained transmission by mid- to late-February, Kate Coronges, executive director of Northeastern University’s Network Science Institute, said Thursday.
“In other words, the seeding of the coronavirus outside mainland China would have already occurred before January,” Coronges said, citing the model.
New York study shows earlier spread
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that results of a study conducted on 3,000 New Yorkers show the virus was spreading in the region much earlier than previously thought.
About 14% of the state’s residents have antibodies, Cuomo said. Antibodies help show who may have previously had the virus and developed the antibodies as a result.
“It is significantly more widespread than most people had imagined and I think it confirms the point that (coronavirus) spread faster and it got here earlier than we originally believed,” Cuomo said.
But the results may also be a point of reassurance.
When the understood number of people infected is raised, the mortality rate “may not be 3% … it may be in the neighborhood … of 1% or less, which is good,” Dr. Carlos Del Rio, executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said.
A larger infected population is daunting, given that researchers understand infected people with no apparent symptoms or mild symptoms can spread the disease, Del Rio said.
“It becomes incredibly difficult to control something that you cannot see,” Del Rio said.
The World Health Organization also is tracking a number of studies across the world trying to determine how many people have been infected by the virus globally, according to Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead for the coronavirus response with the agency.
What the WHO is seeing, Van Kerkhove said, is that the number of people with antibodies globally ranges between 2 to 3%, and up to 14%, according to one study in Germany.
‘Weeks to months’ away from effective treatment
The agency is also tracking hundreds of drug trials, looking for a treatment that can help infected patients recover.
But the world is “weeks to months” from knowing what works, Van Kerkhove said.
Other experts warned Friday that coronavirus antibodies would not be a license to stop physical distancing — partly because not enough is known about whether or to what extent the antibodies offer immunity.
“We do not know whether or not patients who have these antibodies are still at risk of reinfection with Covid-19,” Dr. Mary Hayden, spokeswoman for Infectious Diseases Society of America and chief of Rush University Medical Center’s infectious diseases division, said Friday.
“We don’t know even if the antibodies are protective, (or) what degree of protection they provide. So, it could be complete, it could be partial, or (for) how long the antibodies last,” Hayden said, adding: “We know that antibody responses wane over time.”
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the age of the man who died February 17. He was 69.
CNN’s Ed Lavendera, Amanda Watts, Tina Burnside, Carma Hassan, Gisela Crespo and Jacqueline Howard, Jen Christensen, Wesley Bruer, contributed to this report.